Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for July, 2013

How to deal with hostility and ignorance

July 31, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History 26 Comments →

Fox News laid a trap for Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. But he came prepared, armored in erudition (“I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”) and calm, and prepared to point out unreason (“I think the fundamental problem here is that you’re assuming that I have some type of faith-based bias in this work that I write.”). He sidestepped the pit, allowing the interviewer to fall deeper and deeper into it.

Upon seeing this clip, we ran out and bought Zealot at National Bookstore. (The hardcover is Php985.) The history of religion is always a fascinating subject.

Chris Claremont, you are the X-Men.

July 31, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 1 Comment →

saffy dark phoenix

He didn’t create the X-Men, he didn’t create Wolverine, but he is the author of the greatest X-Men stories ever written. The Dark Phoenix Saga! Days of Future Past! When we think of the X-Men, we think of the tales spun by Chris Claremont. The Wolverine, now in cinemas, is based on his work and he gets no credit. Not a line, it’s just been pointed out to us, in the ten minutes of end credits. Yeah legalese, corporate ownership, blah blah, but that’s not right. The filmmakers may not acknowledge him, but we know who he is. Thank you, Mr. Claremont. Keep on writing.

Is it an emotional experience, watching these characters you’ve lived with for decades on a movie screen?

Oh, it’s very emotional. It’s a unique sense, when I listen to Hugh Jackman bring some of the characters’ signature lines to life. That’s incredibly cool. I can look over all the five films and see, “That’s mine, that’s mine, and that’s mine.” I wish the “Dark Phoenix” saga had been done more effectively than it was, but that was out of my hands. That, unfortunately, was a clusterfuck from the get-go.

Read Sean Howe’s interview with Chris Claremont.

How to ham it up like a professional

July 31, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Re-lay-shun-ships No Comments →

Yesterday we took a break from Cinemalaya to attend to our chores. Besides, our friends were also busy and we didn’t want to watch the movies alone. One of the things we enjoy the most about Cinemalaya is the discussion/debate that follows the screenings, usually over a very late dinner. We’re resuming our viewing this afternoon with Instant Mommy (We’ve only seen the offline edit) and Sana Dati.

After the aggravation of having the bathroom drain de-clogged (Probably the cats’ fault because they keep kicking kitty litter out of the box), we compiled all the questions you sent in for Tom Rodriguez and added some of our own (You’re a graphic artist. What would be the sigil of House Mott?).

Then we watched My Husband’s Lover. Is it just us, or have they been crying for the last two or three weeks? We did enjoy seeing Kuh Ledesma and Roi Vinzons as the gay husband’s parents. Kuh Ledesma’s character sounds like a lot of moms in denial about their gay sons (“They’re just confused, they need help.”). Roi Vinzons’s character is always holding a drink, which accounts for his constant good cheer, interrupted only by homophobic statements. “You’re lucky your son is very straight,” his brother-in-law declares. Oof.

We hope Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing gets shown in local theatres; while we wait there’s Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation from 20 years ago. Everyone looks tanned and fabulous: Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Ken. Denzel Washington is insanely hot, and Keanu Reeves is beautiful. Fine, he’s terrible in it, and putting him next to excellent actors doesn’t help, but we’ll always be fond of Keanu.

Much Ado is a hoot—it’s the classic ligawan-tampuhan (courtship-hateship) scenario with gorgeous language. Evil Keanu tries to break up the young lovers, and once again someone comes up with the dopey solution: “Let’s tell the guy the girl has died so he’ll be sorry and they’ll get back together.” Yeah, tell that to Romeo and Juliet.

The best lines go to Benedick and Beatrice, played by Ken and Emma. Every time they’re in the same room they start sniping at each other. So their friends conclude that they really have a thing for each other: as they say in high school, “Uuyyyy, the more you hate, the more you love.” (Fine, sometimes the hatred may be sexual tension, but sometimes it’s just hatred.)

Denzel and co. hatch a plan: they tell Benedick that Beatrice is dying of love for him, and then they tell Beatrice that Benedick is madly in love with her. It works! Watch how classically-trained actors do slapstick, mug shamelessly, and overact intentionally.

“Love me! Why?”

The LitWit Challenge for July: Romantic as heck

July 30, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest No Comments →


Consider some of the most romantic stories in literature. Romeo and Juliet. Wuthering Heights. Guinevere and Lancelot. The Great Gatsby. Anna Karenina. Gone With the Wind. What do all these stories have in common? The lovers may be mad about each other, but they don’t end up together. Assuming that they survive their passion, they spend the rest of their lives longing for each other. Because the definition of “romantic” is “Anywhere but here, any time but now.”

For this month’s LitWit Challenge, write us a story of at least 500 words in which the lovers are separated, probably for eternity. We’ll accept fan fiction—stories using existing characters, situations and settings in popular culture. Characters from 19th century novels, superhero comics, My Husband’s Lover—the choice is yours.

In short, 500 words at least, romantic, bleak, should make the audience feel bad for the characters. One of the great things about literature is that the most terrible things can happen, but we survive.

The prize is a hardcover edition of Dear Life, short stories by Alice Munro. Post your entries in Comments. The deadline for submission of entries is on 10 August 2013.

The LitWit Challenge is brought to you by our friends at National Bookstore.

Cinemalaya: The Shinning

July 30, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 6 Comments →

This is the moment in the trailer that convinced us to watch The Diplomat Hotel. If only there were 30 more of these.

We had many chances to walk out of the Greenbelt 3 screening of The Diplomat Hotel, but every time we were about to leave, one of the characters would address us directly.

We’re not leaving until this is finished!

Ayyyyyyy a psychic horror movie! So we stayed in our seats, vibrating with suppressed giggles, and then the movie said exactly what we were thinking.

Why did you bring me here? I’ll kill you!

Verdict: If the intention of The Diplomat Hotel is to make the audience feel like they’re in The Diplomat Hotel, it has succeeded. We enjoyed it, though not in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Seriously, the movie looks incomplete unfinished. This version seems to have been cobbled together from available footage by an editor struggling valiantly to find two shots that matched. Gretchen Barretto is the best thing about it.

Weekend at Cinemalaya: Purok 7, Porno, Ekstra

July 29, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 3 Comments →


This year we decided to watch all the feature films in competition at Cinemalaya: ten in the New Breed section (for newish directors) and five in the Directors’ Showcase.

The films are also being screened at Greenbelt, ATC and Trinoma, but we decided to get the complete experience and watch them at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It was gratifying to see the crowds turn up this weekend despite the rains, and stay on despite the heat and humidity inside the building (Was the airconditioning on?).



Whenever we needed breathing space we hung out by the non-operational fountain in front or at the Chicken Rice Shop across the street. (We’d never eaten there before, it’s pretty good.) We spotted this bird–is it a heron?–doing yoga on top of one of the water jets. It ignored the crowds completely.


Our patron for Cinemalaya 2013 is Jeffrey Jeturian, who anointed us his representative for the sacred festival pass which allows miraculous entry to all the CCP screenings. Thank you! Jeffrey’s highly-anticipated film Ekstra starring Vilma Santos is part of the Directors’ Showcase.

On Saturday we watched Purok 7, written and directed by Carlo Obispo, and Porno, directed by Adolf Alix from a screenplay by Ralston Jover.


Purok 7 is a very assured first feature about the joys and sorrows of childhood. It is sweet but not sappy, giddy (kilig) but never cloying, moving but not maudlin. Don’t miss it.

Angel Aquino with our extremely opinionated friends (L-R) Chus, Ricky and Leo. Angel stars in Porno as a transgender individual. Point of discussion: What if an actual transgender like B.B. Gandanghari had been cast in the role?

A movie that calls itself Porno is calculated to provoke. We can’t say we liked it, but something kept us in our seats till the very end. And then we spent the next two hours trying to figure out what we just saw. To us this is a good thing. Our full reviews will appear at InterAksyon.

7.pepe and ian

While waiting for the Ekstra gala we spotted filmmakers Pepe Diokno and Ian Wang, who is visiting from China. We feel like Pepe’s kvetching aunt because every time we see Pepe the first thing that comes out of our mouth is, “Where is your second movie?”


We were seated near filmmaker Marlon Rivera, who has a highly challenging role in Ekstra: one that puts him in a select group with Etang Discher and Zeny Zabala. Marlon is now a size negative-2 after a bout of dengue. (That is not an endorsement of dengue, okay?)


Everybody loves Ate Vi, and she requites this love. Ekstra could be viewed as her tribute to all the bit players, walk-ons and crowd extras she’s worked with over the decades—the people who make a movie seem real but never even make it to the credits. In his introduction Jeffrey Jeturian mentioned that in 1983 he got his first job in the movies, as production assistant on Baby Tsina starring Vilma Santos. He knew that he wanted to be a director, and that he wanted to work with Ate Vi. Thirty years later, mission accomplished.

* * * * *

We did the English subtitles for an early draft of Ekstra. The version screening at Cinemalaya does not use our translation, but we’re still mentioned in the credits.

For translation geeks, here’s how we rendered an early exchange between Loida (Vilma Santos) and her friend. (Yes, we’re just finicky about grammar.)

– It’s exam week. I need to work double-time.
– I don’t understand why you don’t accept your husband’s offer.
– Ex-husband.
– Accept your ex-husband’s offer to pay for Joyce’s tuition.
– I managed to put her through school since the 3rd grade. Now that she’s about to graduate graduating, I’m not about to ask him for help.
Next he’ll be bragging that he put her through college. Excuse me.
– So that’s you, huh. Not just a great extra but a great mother.

Between the maid and Belinda (Marian Rivera)

– Ma’am, wait! Use your umbrella. If your skin darkens your mother will be angry.
– It’s okay, Nanny, I brought a bandana.

And Cherie Gil’s speech to her abductee.

Well, well, look who’s here. Who would’ve thought we’d meet here? Right at the spot where you and my husband frequently betrayed me! Are you surprised? Did you think you could fool me?